Freedom of Information

We sued and it is no longer a secret how much the state paid for Tamás Leisztinger’s coal mine

Ormosszén Zrt., responsible for extracting the brown coal resources of the Borsod coal basin, was bought by the Hungarian state at the end of 2022. The sale contract and the purchase price have been kept secret by the Hungarian National Asset Management Inc., (MNV Zrt.). We sued and won in court. The state company then sent us the agreement, which shows that they paid HUF 3,96 billion for Ormosszén, whose majority owner was Tamás Leisztinger, nicknamed the ‘red baron of the left’. 

“The prolonged war and the energy crisis caused by the Brussels sanctions” led the government to decide on a seven-point energy emergency package in 2022, which included boosting coal mining and lignite extraction. In addition, a brown coal programme was launched. In November 2022, Minister of Economic Development Márton Nagy transferred two coal mining companies – one of which was Ormosszén – to the Ministry of Interior.

In a FOI request, we asked the Hungarian National Asset Management Inc. (MNV), representing the state, about the details of the transfer of Ormosszén to state ownership. But the company

refused to release the contract, claiming commercial confidentiality.

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Prisoners work at the lignite mine of Ormosszén Zrt. in Felsőnyárád on 7 February 2023, after the state ownership (photo: MTI/János Vajda)

We sued and won

We did not agree with MNV’s position, as Ormosszén Zrt. was bought by the state, with public money, so the contract is public data. Because of all this, we filed a lawsuit. The Court of First and Second Instance partially upheld our case.

MNV did not take the case further: they sent us the contract (available in PDF here) a month ago, on 5 March.

It shows that the state bought Ormosszén Zrt. for HUF 3.958 billion.

However, the total amount paid by the state is higher, as the “Purchase Price4” in the contract is unknown.

This is because another company is listed in the document under the name “Company2”, but the court has allowed the details of its acquisition to be redacted from the contract sent to Atlatszo.

Mysterious company in the contract

The mysterious name most probably refers to Meliorációs, Rekultivációs és Környezetrendező Kft., a company that was taken over by the state at the same time as Ormosszén. The managing director of the company, whose main activity is lignite and lignite mining, is Béla Huszti, who is also the head of Ormosszén, and it has the same address as Ormosszén Zrt.

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Extract from issue 181 of the Hungarian Gazette 2022, which reports on the state ownership of two lignite mining companies.

To find out whether this company is indeed listed as “Company2” in the sales contract, and how much the state paid for it when it was purchased, we submitted another FOI request to MNV, asking for the contract and the purchase price of the Meliorációs, Rekultivációs és Környezetrendező Kft.

The “red baron of the left” is the former owner

Ormosszén Zrt., bought by the Hungarian state recently was previously majority-owned by Tamás Leisztinger (through A2 IT ARAGO Zrt.). Leisztinger is one of the richest men in Hungary. Described by government media as “the most influential red baron of the left”, the billionaire used to have good relations with the socialists. In the last ten years, he has cooperated with the Orbán government several times.

Most recently, in the social firewood programme. We wrote in 2020 that residents and several local authorities complained about the quality of the product, and the poorest received lignite rich in carcinogenic compounds.

Miskolc-based Ormosszén Zrt. operates the coal and gravel mine in the Natura 2000 area outside Vadna, where residents complain of dust and noise. The company says that the harmful side-effects of their activities are below the limits set by the regulations – but information from the Government Office, which summarises the company’s fines, did not justify this.

Cyprus offshore company behind the other company

According to the register of members available in the company court documents from 2022, Meliorációs, Rekultivációs és Környezetrendező Kft. belonged to A2 IT ARAGO Zrt., owned by Tamás Leisztinger, for about half a year before it was taken into state ownership. In the supplementary annex to their annual accounts for 2022, the former members included a certain CRATIS Ingatlanbefektető és Szolgáltató Zrt. and Nógrádszén Kft.

The name of CRATIS Ingatlanbefektető és Szolgáltató Zrt. appeared in an article a few years ago, concerning the bus rental of Budapest public transport company (BKV). The company, which won the tender for the bus rental was founded by three companies, including CRATIS Ingatlanbefektető és Szolgáltató Zrt. as majority owner.

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Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Tamás Leisztinger, majority owner of DVTK, shaking hands with Attila Szinay, Minister of State for Public Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, and Szilárd Németh, President of the Hungarian Wrestling Federation, on the right, at the opening ceremony of the DVTK Medical Center and the wrestling hall in Miskolc on 1 October 2019 (photo: MTI/János Vajda)

The company is owned by Agrina Holdings, an offshore company based in Cyprus, whose owners include people closely linked to the business empire of Tamás Leisztinger. The majority owner of Nógrádszén is also the same offshore company, Agrina Holdings, and until mid-2022 the state-owned Ormosszén Zrt. was also among its members.

Written and translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, more detailed Hungarian version of this story can be found here.